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Eagles hiring Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as head coach; can he fix Carson Wentz?


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The Eagles are hiring Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their new head coach.

ESPN first reported on Thursday afternoon that Sirianni, 39, will replace the fired Doug Pederson. A league source confirmed the report. The Eagles have not announced the hiring as of yet.

Sirianni has ties working with all different types of NFL quarterbacks, something that no doubt interested the Eagles, who were looking for someone to "fix" Carson Wentz, coming off by far the worst season of his career.

Most of Sirianni's experience comes with Philip Rivers, the Colts quarterback this past season. Sirianni was the Chargers' quarterbacks coach in 2014-15 with Rivers. Frank Reich, the current Colts head coach, was the Chargers' offensive coordinator during those two seasons. 

Reich, who served as the Eagles' offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017, brought Sirianni to Indianapolis as his offensive coordinator in 2018.

Sirianni shared his philosophy on elite modern quarterbacks when asked last season by the Indianapolis Star:

“It always comes down to, can he make good decisions with the football and can he make accurate throws, right? Those are the two main things, and then after that, can he escape pressure and create on his own?

“I just think if you look at it over and over and over again, those are the two main ones, and then it is can you escape? I think you are seeing a little bit more of guys that can escape now and create plays with their legs. It’s like having a running back back there making plays and being able to do those first two things with the playmaking ability also.”

Can Sirianni get that out of Wentz? Or does that fit more with rookie Jalen Hurts, the Eagles' second-round pick who replaced Wentz for the final 4½ games?

After all, Wentz was ranked among the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last season, completing just 57.4% of his passes and tied for the league lead in interceptions with 15. Hurts, meanwhile, completed only 52% of his passes but gave the Eagles a running element that Wentz either didn't or wouldn't.

Then again, Rivers isn't a mobile quarterback, and he thrived under Sirianni and Reich, even in 2020 at the age of 39. 

No doubt, Reich gave Sirianni a detailed scouting report on Wentz. Pederson, Reich and Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, all came to the Eagles at the same time.

In 2017, Wentz was on his way to being named the league's MVP when he tore his ACL in December. The Eagles won the Super Bowl anyway behind Nick Foles, and soon after, Reich got his first head coaching job. 

In three seasons with the Colts, Sirianni had three different quarterbacks in Andrew Luck in 2018, followed by Jacoby Brissett in 2019 when Luck retired just before the season started, and Rivers this past season.

Rivers announced his retirement earlier this week. Under Reich and Sirianni, both with the Chargers and Colts, Rivers kept alive his streak of passing for at least 4,000 yards, something he did in each of his final 13 seasons.

NICK SIRIANNI FILE: 3 things to know about Eagles coaching candidate Nick Sirianni, including his ties to Frank Reich

The Colts ranked in the top 10 in points and total yards in 2018 when they went 10-6 and again in 2020 when they went 11-5. They made the playoffs each time. 

Sirianni also served as the Chargers' wide receivers coach in 2016 and 2017, working with receivers such as Keenan Allen, who had a career-high 1,393 yards receiving in 2017.

The Eagles have a young core of receivers, led by first-round pick Jalen Reagor, who wasn't as prolific as expected with just 396 receiving yards in 11 games. Veterans DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are not expected back. It's possible that tight end Zach Ertz might not return either.

But Sirianni has never called plays on offense. Pederson, whom the Eagles fired on Jan. 11, was relatively inexperienced in that regard, too, when he became the Eagles head coach in 2016. Pederson had only done it during second halves of games in 2015 with the Chiefs.

Sirianni is also taking over a roster that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie described as being in a "real transition period." Some veteran players are not expected to return, and some others might have to restructure their contracts, as the Eagles are projected to be about $70 million over the salary cap heading into the new season.

Lurie said the goal is to rebuild around its younger players and in the upcoming draft. The Eagles, coming off a 4-11-1 season, will have the No. 6 overall pick.

Sirianni will also have to put together a staff, beginning with an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. The makeup of Pederson's staff was reportedly one of the reasons why he got fired, as he apparently wanted to make only minor changes to his staff.

Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman likely wanted more. Now that Sirianni is getting a late start on that, Lurie and Roseman might end up getting involved in that, too.

The Eagles were one of seven teams with head coaching vacancies this offseason. The Houston Texans are the only team that hasn't filled their opening yet.

But Sirianni does have connections, including with former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, one of those head coaches fired after the season. It's possible he could become the offensive coordinator.

Sirianni got his start in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, going from a quality control coach to assistant quarterbacks coach to wide receivers coach in 2012. He was not retained when Andy Reid became the Chiefs head coach in 2013.

Sirianni went to the Chargers in 2013 as an offensive quality control coach, joining Reich, who was the quarterbacks coach. The next season, Reich was promoted to offensive coordinator and Sirianni became the quarterbacks coach.

The Eagles, meanwhile, hired Pederson in 2016 to be their head coach. He brought in Reich as the offensive coordinator, and the Eagles drafted Wentz No. 2 overall that spring.

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But Wentz regressed dramatically this past season, in part due to injuries along the offensive line, his own poor play, and questionable play-calling. There was an ESPN report, citing a source, that Wentz felt his relationship with Pederson was "fractured beyond repair" and that he was expected to seek a trade.

Wentz has not spoken to the media since he was benched on Dec. 6, but Pederson described the relationship as "fine" the day after the season ended. Pederson said it was his mission in the offseason to fix Wentz.

Pederson was 42-37-1 in five seasons. He was also 4-2 in the playoffs, which the Eagles made in three of Pederson's five seasons.

But Lurie said after firing Pederson that Pederson didn't have the "vision" for the future that he was looking for. 

That began an interview process with 10 candidates in 10 days. Sirianni was one of the last to interview, going on Tuesday. That came two days after the Eagles interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, believed to be the front-runner.

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Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie explains firing Pederson, Wentz's future
Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie explains the decision to fire Doug Pederson, and his thoughts on QB Carson Wentz.
Martin Frank, The News Journal

Many of the Eagles players, meanwhile, had clamored for running backs coach Duce Staley, who has been on the coaching staff since 2011.

The Eagles decided not to wait to interview Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, whose team is still alive in the playoffs. Bieniemy has spent the last three seasons helping Patrick Mahomes become one of the top three quarterbacks in the NFL.

Sirianni no doubt impressed the Eagles with his vision for the future. Whether or not that future includes Wentz could determine Sirianni's success.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.